How to Start A Walking Program
July 19, 2022
Now that the summer months are here, many of us try to spend ample amounts of time outdoors. We slowly return to life after being cooped up during the cold, winter months. This is the time to get out and moving again! Typically, when it is cold and dreary outside, we are less likely to exercise. It tends to slip on the priority list, and we make every excuse we can to avoid the workout regimen. As the weather warms, it is much easier to feel motivated, and maybe even excited, to get back at it! Whether you are 10 or 75, generally active or a couch potato, athletically inclined or clumsy and uncoordinated, everyone could benefit from a walking program.
Walking doesn’t only increase your heart rate and improve your endurance. There are many other benefits as well. As you walk, your muscles must activate and work, improving strength within them. And we all know the greater the strength in the muscles, the less stress on the bones and joints. As your blood begins to pump through the body, your organs learn to run at this accelerated rate. They need the exercise just as much as your muscles and joints do! Walking is one of the greatest exercises to help lower blood pressure, decrease your risk of heart disease, and can even decrease your risk of stroke. Another big benefit is weight loss. Many of us may think we need to run in order to drop those extra holiday pounds, but that is not true! With a proper walking regimen, you can promote weight loss and feel better overall. But what is a proper regimen? How do we know how long or fast we should be walking for?
Getting set up on a proper regimen may require a few steps. Generally, if you have any medical conditions or a history of medical conditions, you always want to check with your primary doctor first. They will be able to assess your past and current status, the medications you are on and how cardiovascular exercise may affect those, as well as recommend the best pace or distance to begin your walking regimen. There are also a couple questions you need to ask yourself. “Am I walking to lose weight?” “Am I walking to improve my endurance and overall health?” “Do I want to decrease my pain?” Depending on your answer to these questions, your walking regimen may appear different than someone else’s.
It is recommended to reach at least 10,000 steps a day if you are aiming to lose weight. This equals roughly 5 miles. Now, it may seem overwhelming to go out and walk 5 miles straight—don’t stress! Break it down into quarter or half mile increments if that sounds a bit more manageable for your fitness level and timeframe. Pace will vary depending on your weight, fitness level, and medical conditions. There are ways, however, to be sure you keep within a tolerated level of activity. By calculating your target heart rate, you can get an idea of how hard your body should be working in order to receive max benefit without overstressing the system. To figure your target heart rate, you want to take 220-your age. You will then multiple this number, first by .5, then by .85. This will give you your range in which you want your heart rate to stay within as you exercise.
Walking to simply decrease pain, improve your mental health, or feel better overall does not have to be quite so regimented. 3-5 times a week at this 10,000 step goal is still recommended; however, you don’t need to be quite as vigorous with it. Take your time, moving at a steady pace that will keep the heart rate on the lower side of the spectrum, but still higher than your resting rate. Think of this more as a daily stroll through your neighborhood or local park. Enjoy the walk, but make it productive at the same!
If you’re like me, the thought of walking the same path every day may seem boring and decrease your motivation to go. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your walking regimen. Hills will encourage your cardiovascular system to work a bit harder and, in turn, will help the body burn more calories. Find a hiking trail or a riverwalk along some new terrain. This will keep you engaged with your regimen and excited to move again tomorrow! It will also challenge your muscles and joints in a new way, improving your overall strength and stability.
Are you still unsure of exactly how to start? Reach out to your local therapist or primary care physician. We have the knowledge and background needed to help you get started on the right path today. We can assess your current status, help you set personal goals, and create a regimen tailored specifically to your needs. Call us today at 402.234.3333 if you’d like a physical assessment and help beginning your new fitness journey!